HHS Omnibus Bill: Senate vs. House

The Senate continues its work to reach a compromise with the House on the Health and Human Services Budget Omnibus Bill. While the Senate is willing to negotiate, it will stand firm on its commitment to protect MinnesotaCare from the House’s proposal to eliminate the program.

Last week’s HHS conference committee exposed the House GOP’s lack of numbers, facts, and reasoning behind its falsified savings. The House HHS budget cuts more than $1 billion from human services, with the largest cut coming from eliminating MinnesotaCare, a program targeted at working Minnesotans who can’t afford their own health insurance plan and aren’t offered one by an employer.

In the 2011 Special Session, Republicans imposed a more than $1 billion cut from Health and Human Services, but back then, the state was facing a $5 billion deficit. Minnesota currently has a $1.9 billion surplus, yet the House GOP still wants to cut $1.07 billion to services for hospitals, workers, and seniors while forcing more than 90,000 Minnesotans from their health care coverage, all to pay for tax giveaways the state cannot afford.

The House claims its proposal to eliminate MinnesotaCare is responsible and forward-thinking. But in reality, House Republicans are utilizing shifts and gimmicks in their health care budget to meet their cut target. The investments they do provide for are unsustainable, as they use one-time savings to pay for ongoing priorities. The fake dollar amounts used to fund this massive cut are deceptive to Minnesota’s most vulnerable populations, who rely on the programs the Republican House is claiming to fund.

In addition to pulling funds from working families’ pockets, House Republicans miscalculate savings accrued from their plan to kick low-income Minnesotans off public programs. A fiscal note estimates that an eligibility audit proposed by the House would save $17 million. The House budget books more than $300 million that will be saved as a result of this audit – but again, these savings are fabricated and cannot be achieved without eliminating public program eligibility for those who rightfully qualify or reducing reimbursement rates for public program providers.

Along with falsified savings, the Republicans in the House use one-time spending and questionable shifts to meet their target. Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) providers and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) are provided with a onetime funding increase. These providers would only be able to utilize this increase for one biennium, but then would basically have to give the money back.

While the Senate HHS bill ensures that all Minnesotans – those who reside in the metro and those who reside in rural communities – have fair, affordable access to health care and programs, the House bill – which claims to place an emphasis on supporting rural communities – negatively affects working families in Greater Minnesota worst of all.

Senate DFL Media